Virginia's Republican Governor Bob McDonnell forgot something on Tuesday! Was it... his car keys? Not quite. Was it... his wife's birthday? Getting closer! Was it... to include any mention of slavery in his proclamation of Confederate History Month? Why... yes!
That's right, April is "Confederate History Month" in Virginia, for the first time since 2001. Time to recognize the service of the brave young men who died fighting for the right of one kind of people to own another kind of people!
Except for, uh, that last bit. The totally-not-racist-at-all McDonnell didn't think slavery was "significant" enough an issue to Virginians to warrant mention in his delightful proclamation, which is weird because it was pretty "significant" to the Virginians who seceded from the United States and started the Civil War (and also, obviously, "significant" to, um, actual slaves).
The bizarre omission did not sit well with many Virginians, some of whom—like BET co-founder Sheila Johnson—had given McDonnell a lot of money to run for governor. She wasn't the only one: McDonnell also drew heat from his predecessor, Democrat Tim Kaine (who had refused to issue a similar proclamation while in office), the Legislative Black Caucus of Virginia, and Virginia—and the nation's—first black governor, L. Douglas Wilder.
In response, McDonnell seceded from Virginia. Kidding! Actually, he did what all idiots with massive race-related blind spots should do when they manage to piss people off: He apologized, and added a paragraph about slavery to his proclamation:
WHEREAS, it is important for all Virginians to understand that the institution of slavery led to this war and was an evil and inhumane practice that deprived people of their God-given inalienable rights and all Virginians are thankful for its permanent eradication from our borders, and the study of this time period should reflect upon and learn from this painful part of our history.
So, does this count as "progress"? Maybe. We would prefer that there not be a "Confederate History Month" at all. Virginia didn't fall apart without one. It is ridiculous that we still have to remind people of the importance of slavery in the causes of secession and the events that followed, and similarly ridiculous that people still want to think of Southern secession as a noble cause worth looking on with fondness.
But: if people have to show some kind of blinkered nostalgia for an era whose defining feature was the legal treatment of human beings as property, it would be nice if they were reminded of that feature, constantly, instead of being allowed to gloss over it—or forget it entirely.